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Hamilton has one hand on the F1 crown
October 03, 2007 20:14 IST
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton [Images] will become Formula One's first rookie champion, as well as the youngest, if he wins in China on Sunday.
The 22-year-old Briton, an angel-faced assassin if ever there was one, is 12 points clear of double world champion and team mate Fernando Alonso [Images] with just Brazil [Images] to come after Shanghai.
One more victory, following on from his stunning performance at a wet Fuji in Japan [Images] last weekend, would be enough for Hamilton to emerge as Britain's ninth world champion and first since Damon Hill in 1996.
However the rookie, the first black driver who has introduced a new audience to the glamour sport while astonishing paddock regulars with his poise and performances, is taking nothing for granted.
He also knows that a crash, like Alonso had in Japan on Sunday, could change everything.
"Anything is still possible but I am feeling confident and very determined," he said in a team preview.
"There has been a lot of talk over the last couple of days about the championship, but I just push that to the back of my mind.
"I am only focused on the next two races and doing the best I can in China and Brazil with the team."
Shanghai and Brazil are tracks that Hamilton has never seen before but that should not faze him. He won at Indianapolis, Montreal and Fuji without any previous experience of them either.
Alonso, whose hopes of a third title in a row now depend largely on some "miracle" of misfortune striking his bitter rival, started on pole position in Shanghai last year with Renault and won in 2005.
"My retirement in Japan has not made it easy for me in the championship," said the Spaniard, who will use the team's spare car from Japan with another being flown out from Britain as backstop, with some understatement.
"But there are still 20 points to be won and I am going to fight hard for each one of them.
"There is always a lot of talk of pressure and distractions at this time of the year, all I think about is racing and winning at Shanghai and Interlagos."
Ferrari's [Images] Kimi Raikkonen [Images], the only other driver still mathematically in the championship hunt but 17 points adrift of Hamilton, can complicate matters by taking Ferrari's 200th grand prix win.
Shanghai suited the Ferraris last year, with now-retired Michael Schumacher [Images] roaring from sixth on the grid to take the 91st and final win of his stellar career and grab the championship lead for one last time.
Raikkonen can count on the support of his Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa [Images], who is out of the reckoning, while the McLaren drivers will be showing each other no favours.
That could play into the Finn's hands and he is certainly not about to throw in the towel.
"It looks like Hamilton has wrapped it up, but we will not give up," he said on his Web site (www.kimiraikkonen.com).
"At least we will try to make it more difficult for them by winning these last two races."
Ferrari have won the constructors' championship after McLaren were stripped of all their points and fined $100 million last month for having the Italian team's technical information in their possession.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage